Published: October 21, 2019

Two hundred stewards gathered in Portland this weekend to plan the future of representation at SEIU 503. 


If you’ve ever been wrongfully terminated, unfairly disciplined or mistreated at work, you probably know the importance of a union steward.

This weekend, two hundred stewards gathered in Portland for SEIU 503’s annual Stewards Conference. It was an inspiring event, packed with the leaders in our Union responsible for enforcing our contracts and representing SEIU members when our rights are violated at work. Part celebration. Part planning. The conference was an opportunity to reflect on 2019 while also strengthening this vital program for the future.

Micki Varney, Co-chair of the committee that planned the event, spoke about the important role stewards plan in our Union. “When one of our colleagues sees a steward standing up for a coworker,” Varney said, “they don’t just see a steward; they see our Union.”

Micki Varney, ODFW Chief Steward and Steward Committee Co-Chair

Executive Director Melissa Unger noted how important this work is to our future. “Last year, we passed resolutions that re-focused our Union on the stewards program,” she said at the closing of the Conference. “Stewards are leaders. They inspire other people to become members. They encourage other people to get active. And most of all, they provide on-the-job representation that is a core part of what it means to be in union.” 

Recently, we have been working to expand the role of the stewards program in homecare, where workers don’t have traditional “worksites” and their unique client/employer arrangement presents a different set of challenges. 

Steward Committee Co-Chair, and homecare worker, Terry Hayden is one of the people driving this work. In 2018, we created a homecare and personal support worker basic training, Hayden said at the Conference. We are also offering advanced trainings so stewards can support workers who are at risk of losing their provider number. Given the geographical challenges of supporting a workforce spread out in every county in the State, the committee is working to create more programs for people in rural areas and improving online tools for stewards. 

Homecare workers and other members of our union discuss the expansion of the Steward Program

Our network of stewards and staff at the Member Resource Center secure more than $100,000 per year in back pay and settlements for members whose rights were violated at work.

At the conference we offered more than 20 workshops, covering topics such as interrupting bias, new employee orientation, self care for stewards, and how to be a steward online. Training opportunities are critical to the long-term success of stewards, and there are regular trainings available across the state. For more information, reach out to the Member Resource Center at 1-844-503-7348. 

Members of the steward committee were recognized at the event for their critical role in driving this work. They include, Alisha Goodwin, Diana Lobo, Janet Ferris, Jo Hickerson, Micki Varney (Stewards Committee Co-Chair), Mike Scott, Sally Cumberworth, Tammy Tate Houdroge, Terry Haydon (Stewards Committee Co-Chair), Adam Korst, Rhonda Morgan, Ron Strle

The work of exceptional stewards across our union was also recognized at the event. They include, Debra K Mitzel, Ibrahim Coulibaly, Lee Erickson, Serena McCurdy, Guillermo Romero, Rebecca Sandoval, Joy’e M Willman, Meleta Christian, Wayne Ground, Candace L Gifford, Carmen Morales Mayoral, Eric R Ollerenshaw, Joyce Vegar, Michelle Jones, Anna Young, Michael Omogrosso, Michele Miller, Michelle Suguitan-Reed, Randall S. Davis, Brian Thaden, Carla Georgijean Hodges, Dani Thompson, Danielle Thompson, Deanna Boylan, Juan Prat-Sanchez, Libbie Bailey, Mark Thordsen, Paul Groh, Sharronne Vincent, Wendy Compton, and Shirley M Wait.

Leaders are presented with the “Hammer” award for excellent service as a steward